Frank Fritz’s name has thus far showed up all over the media for numerous reasons, most of which are not something anyone would be proud of. It’s fairly difficult to pick the most negative sensationalistic article title related to this TV star, and most fans of “American Pickers,” the show that gave him fame and fortune, have long since been disenchanted by the way he’s handled certain issues.

Arguably the greatest controversy Fritz had been involved in is one in which serious bodily harm had been caused to another person – his wife. Coupled with all the cheating allegations and other related scandals, various negative factors combine to paint the picture of an abusive husband, who ultimately resorted to blatant violence.

It’s not all black and white, though, as there are various nuances to consider throughout the exploration of the way Frank has dealt with the unpredictability of life so far. The truth is somewhere in between the good and the bad, and the final judgment is left to each individual member of the public who becomes acquainted with the pertinent details in their entirety.

Fritz’s rise to fame

Born on 11 October 1965, in Davenport, Iowa USA, Frank Fritz grew up with a natural curiosity for collecting odd bits and trinkets – a trait that would become his defining characteristic. As a child he showed a keen interest in antiquities, and this fascination steadily evolved into a lifelong passion.

The boy’s early experiences included digging through old barns, garages, and estate sales, checking for hidden treasures that others might overlook. At the time this habit was nothing more than a negligible interest, as no one could have assumed that there would one day be an entire TV series about exactly that.

Frank’s journey to the limelight began when he crossed paths with fellow picker Mike Wolfe at a mutual friend’s house in 2002, through their shared fascination with trinkets. Wolfe had already started his own antique business back then, immediately recognizing Fritz’s knack for finding valuable items amidst the discarded and forgotten.

In 2010 the duo teamed up to pitch the wildly popular reality TV series “American Pickers” to History Channel, who were elated to accept. The show offered viewers an unprecedented glimpse into the world of antique collecting and the art of ‘picking.’ Each episode followed Fritz and Wolfe as they traversed the backroads of the US, rummaging through barns, attics, and basements in search of hidden gems.

What set “American Pickers” apart from other reality shows was its authenticity, as Fritz and Wolfe weren’t merely on a quest for profit – they often took on the noble mission of uncovering the stories and history behind the items they found. The crew’s genuine passion for preservation and historical appreciation resonated with audiences across the nation, easily earning the title a cult following.

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One of the series’ most compelling aspects was Fritz’s undeniable charisma and unique approach to picking. His signature style, complete with tattoos and a grizzled appearance, made him instantly recognizable. Audiences were drawn to his unfiltered personality and unwavering dedication to the one true passion that kept him going, through all of the years preceding his time on television.

In time the show enjoyed worldwide audiences, transforming Fritz and Wolfe into household names that were there to stay. The show’s success can also be attributed not only to the fascinating items they uncovered but the dynamic chemistry between the two men. Their camaraderie and banter added an extra layer of entertainment to each episode, interspersed with actual knowledge of history being provided by both of them.

As the show’s popularity soared, Fritz became a beloved figure in the world of television, with fans admiring his authenticity and down-to-earth demeanor. He was simple, humble, and relatable, representing the everyday collector’s dream of striking it rich with a hidden treasure. The personality Frank represented on the screen was undoubtedly the crowning jewel of his career, as it brought him what most could only wish for.

How did it all crumble? What happened?

Frank’s departure from “American Pickers” in 2021 marked the end of his success streak, but not even he understood that at the time. Fans initially hoped that it was a temporary absence due to urgent back surgery, but as time passed, it became clear that Frank was no longer part of the program.

In July of that year, Entertainment Weekly published an exclusive report that shed light on the behind-the-scenes events that led to Frank’s exit. Both Mike Wolfe and the History Channel’s inner circles shared their perspectives, confirming that Frank had left the crew. Mike spoke of his deep bond with Frank, describing their journey since 2009 as filled with highs, lows, blessings and challenges, making it evident that their collaboration had ended amicably.

Mike further stated that he will miss Fritz as much as any other fan, and that he, like they, hopes for Frank’s success in whichever endeavor he chooses to undertake next, as there’s nothing but support in his heart. It was almost as if there was additional incentive for Wolfe to appear as friendly as possible in the public eye.

In July 2022 The Sun revealed that Frank had been grappling with alcohol addiction for several years, having also suffered from Crohn’s disease in the meantime, which is a debilitating condition characterized by chronic inflammation of the digestive system. Frank discussed his long battle with the illness, saying that despite it having been identified as early as 1933, the medical community had yet to fully comprehend its causes.

Elaborating on the challenges posed by Crohn’s, Frank explained that there is still no known cure for his ailment, which makes every day feel like another round in hell. He emphasized being unable to enjoy even the lightest possible meal, such as scrambled eggs and a piece of toast, without suffering a serious flare-up of the bowels. This issue wasn’t consistent, though, since most other days he could have a greasy drip-cheese meal with no consequences whatsoever.

Getting back on track

The unpredictable nature of Crohn’s symptoms left Frank living in constant fear and uncertainty, which inevitably leads to other issues. It appears that alcohol served as a coping mechanism, as he admitted to struggling with addiction for years. In another interview he admitted to eventually seeking treatment, having spent 77 days at The Abbey Center in Bettendorf, Iowa.

By July 2021 Fritz hadn’t licked a drop of alcohol for 11 months following apparently successful therapy, going as far as to tell reporters that he didn’t like drinking anymore, so it was no longer a struggle to stave off the bottle. His family history likely played a part in this decision as well, as his mother and her father had both passed away due to alcoholism, the former in 2016.

The TV star also commended the professional nature of his rehabilitation process, describing a rigorous schedule with no room for idleness. The staff provided individualized attention, fostering an environment conducive to steady recovery. Frank’s commitment to self-improvement was also necessary, and he’d read 12 self-help books during his time at the center to that end.

Frank was determined to take charge of his life after conquering his addiction, continuing to attend counseling meetings to stay connected and ensure he remained on the path to recovery. He additionally extended a helping hand to others grappling with similar issues, acting as a sponsor for those seeking support.

He was resolute about his sobriety in the interview, reminiscing how some of the things alcohol made him do were horrible choices which he never again wanted to make. While fans were undoubtedly pleased to hear about his progress, it wasn’t enough to secure his return to the show. History Channel employees remained mum on the topic, and his former co-stars also quietly resumed their careers.

Fritz nevertheless remained optimistic about his future, thereby expressing a strong desire to return to his job, reunite with friends, fans, and the thrill of adventure. However, there were several challenges standing between him and his dream of hitting the open road across the country once more.

Cheating, drinking, and third-degree burns

The intricacies of Frank Fritz’s long-term relationship with his former fiancée, Diann Bankson, remain somewhat uncertain. Frank felt that their union was heading towards marriage, having even purchased a new house in anticipation.

However, he later discovered that Diann had been involved with someone else during his time on the road, which had a profound impact on his mental well-being, causing emotional pain, damage to his self-esteem, and a significant disruption to his life. He ultimately resorted to excessive drinking to cope with the heartbreak – a behavior he hadn’t engaged in to such an extent before.

Fritz was deeply affected by Diann’s infidelity, because they had previously made extensive plans for their life together, which led him to believe that she was the one, and that they had the happily-ever-after in the bag. These accusations erupted into a full-on court battle in the coming months, adding even more notoriety to the already abysmal situation between the two.

A fiery relationship

The Sun reported on 11 March 2021 that Bankson had taken her former fiancé to court over negligence a year prior, due to a mishap that occurred shortly after she found him in bed with another woman at their home in November 2018. A bitter fight ensued as a separation was imminent, but the two somehow managed to weather the storm and get back together.

The peace wouldn’t last long, however, as another troubling episode unfolded at the farmhouse shortly after. Frank and a friend of his decided to set off fireworks in the yard to celebrate an unspecified occasion, which Diann wasn’t too interested in. She asserted that both men had been drinking at the time, and she went into the house while they remained outside, igniting the fuses.

Bankson recounted in the court documents submitted in January 2020 that the men struggled to light one of the pieces. She claimed that they both put the unignited firework in a closed cylinder vintage ashtray in an attempt to light it again, with better accuracy. Their second attempt also failed, ultimately causing them to give up on the idea of seeing any more lights for the night. The piece was left where they had put it, as Fritz obviously thought no harm could come from that.

The ex-fiancé alleged that she wasn’t given any warning about the ashtray, and used it while smoking a cigarette, unknowingly heating up the firework. It exploded half-way into the cigarette, causing severe third-degree burns to her hand and arm, as well as singeing off her eyelashes and eyebrows.

The court document also details Diann’s claim that Frank refused her request to be taken to the hospital, telling her to ‘toughen up.’ She eventually sought medical treatment for her injuries, receiving adequate care over the coming days that ensured the least permanent damage possible. She sought $50,000 in damages, asserting that Fritz was negligent in handling the fireworks.

Amid their ongoing legal dispute, when the couple separated once more, Diann alleged that Frank had the locks changed on another Iowa property they shared. Her lawsuit also cited various forms of suffering, including pain, emotional distress, loss of earning capacity, and medical expenses.

Diann voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit on 19 March 2020, for still undisclosed reasons. Frank and a representative for “American Pickers” didn’t respond to The Sun’s request for comment. While he had previously uploaded numerous photos with Diann onto Facebook, there have been no such posts since September 2017.

The aftermath

Fritz began to deteriorate both physically and mentally in the wake of all the negative outcomes, as he was effectively out of a job, and also with no real chance of marrying anytime soon. The stacking of unfortunate circumstances culminated with Fritz suffering a stroke in July 2022, that had the right side of his body temporarily paralyzed.

This resulted in his placement under a conservatorship and guardianship arrangement while he embarked on the path to recovery. The stroke had initially rendered him wheelchair-bound, necessitating the installation of ramps at his Iowa home.

An acquaintance of the TV star provided a comprehensive update on Frank’s condition in an exclusive interview with The US Sun on 24 August 2023, conveying that Frank’s daily improvement was evident, albeit acknowledging that one is never fully back to normal after experiencing a stroke. Nevertheless, Frank is alert and cognizant of his surroundings, showing an almost intact mental capacity while his body convalesces.

The friend emphasized that if Frank were present at that moment, one could engage in a conversation with him, as he remains the same jovial and approachable individual. Although Frank has regained the ability to walk, he still relies on a wheelchair for longer distances, due to the loss of mobility on his right side still persisting.

He continues to undergo outpatient therapy on a weekly basis for several hours to aid in his ongoing recovery process, preferring to keep such activities completely private in spite of his fans dying to know what’s going on.

The source also stated that a prevailing misconception about Frank revolves around his health – while he did suffer a stroke, it hasn’t debilitated him to the extent that he’s unable to carry out daily activities or pursue his interests. The picker’s positive mindset and sense of humor remain intact, allowing him to navigate this new phase of life with resilience and humour.

His friend Chris Davis assumed the role of guardian, while MidWestOne Bank was appointed as the conservator. Legal documents published in November 2022 highlighted the extent of Frank’s troubles, as the public found out that his annual healthcare costs alone will exceed $270,000, while the star gets only $60,000 per year from various investments.

The report detailed how the stroke had severely affected his decision-making capacity, rendering him unable to provide for his own safety and essential needs, such as food, shelter, clothing and medical care.

His condition has visibly improved by September 2023, but the question remains whether he will ever attain complete uninterrupted control over his extremities, as that is required if he were to ever return to “American Pickers.” The stroke has made this scenario seem so unlikely that most fans have given up on the idea, and continue to watch the show with nostalgic sentimentality.

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